Red Canoe


Oil on canvas

92 × 76.4 cm (36 1/4 × 30 1/16 in.)

An enigmatic figure, a thin-bodied man with long hair and a beard, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, sits in a red canoe, seeming to stare in our direction.

The composition is radically defined by the central presence of the canoe—reduced to a red band, a strict horizontal axis that divides the painting into equal parts: the upper section, clear and peaceful, inhabited by the figure; and the lower section, that of the reflection, informal, troubled, and dark.

The works of Peter Doig (born 17 April 1959 in Edinburgh) most often depict figures within landscapes—often motifs from Trinidad or Canada where Doig grew up. They fascinate by their singular setting, their colours, their intense luminosity, and their enigmatic character. They also draw on an iconography of personal or found documents: newspaper clippings or pop culture imagery such as album covers and movie posters. Between memories, dreams, and associations, these paintings are “worlds unto themselves, an apotheosis of presence, of being there,” which continue to exert a deep magnetism long after their discovery. His paintings are like inner visions which leave the visitor with an ambiguous feeling.

Despite its serene composition, Red Canoe (2000) exudes a tension that stems from this gesture brought to a standstill, this fixed gaze—an ambiguous melancholy emanating from the solitude of this individual, caught between two waters, as if lost in time and space.

This work is presented for the first time by the Pinault Collection in the exhibition "Ouverture" at the Bourse de Commerce in 2021.